Recycling Law Draws Mixed Reactions

by Lindsey Grutchfield

Beginning July 1, part of a stricter recycling law took effect in Vermont. Act 148, passed three years ago, is designed to promote recycling across the state. New provisions of the law require that recycling services be offered by haulers and transfer stations, and that residential waste collection services must charge one fee that includes both trash and recycling. Also taking effect are provisions that prohibit recyclables in landfills and require an equal number of recycling containers and trash containers in public spaces.

Accompanying this new law is a media campaign launched by the Agency of Natural Resources entitled “Recycling Resimplified.” This campaign was created to familiarize Vermonters with the new law. A press release from the Department of Environmental Conservation notes that, until now, “Lack of convenience and a sense of confusion over the ‘recyclability’ of various product packaging have served as barriers to Vermonters who must make daily choices about how to dispose of their ‘stuff.’”

Recycling Resymplified is part of an enormous effort by the Agency of Natural Resources to implement Act 148 and increase the percentage of waste recycled in the state. It includes radio ads and public service announcements, among other outreach tools designed to call attention to the law. Act 148 has also attracted vocal endorsement by Burton Snowboards and the Vermont Army National Guard, representatives of which attended a recent press conference held by the agency in Burlington.

However, as popular as it has been among these entities, the law has proven far more controversial among many of the smaller rubbish-hauling companies in the state. In some cases, these small companies stand in support of Act 148. A representative from Diamond Rubbish Removal in North Troy views it as generally positive, although she feels the part of the law dealing with food waste may be a little extreme. Diamond Rubbish Removal has already distributed lists of recyclables to its customers, and the representative said that the law will not affect the business at all, as most of the company’s customers already recycle.

For many other small Vermont rubbish-hauling companies, Act 148 is a big problem. For companies without the resources of some of the larger providers, such as Casella Waste Systems, implementing the provisions of the new law can be a burden in terms of labor and time. Kelly Gamble of Rebel Rubbish in West Danville calls the law, “a pain in the rear,” and says that it complicates his job, being “just another thing to do.”

In addition to the logistical difficulties of implementing the new guidelines, Act 148 is costing some small companies money. Says Ethan Hill of Hillside Trash, Inc. in Hyde Park, “(it) costs me stops, costs me accounts. I’ve had a lot of people cancel accounts because of all this crap.” He attributes this to many of his older customers disliking change, and balks at the law itself, saying, “The state could just say it’s best to recycle. I think they don’t have to make it mandatory.”

The new recycling law is designed to be revised every five years.

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